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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Unluckiest Show in Seattle

posted by on May 20 at 10:42 AM

Pity the poor Nebunele Theater company—not only does it have a name nobody can ever remember how to say, Nebu-whatever-you-call-it is currently running Medea Knows Best, the unluckiest show in Seattle.

But maybe that’s what you get for adapting Medea as a musical comedy.


A litany of the company’s woes, beginning with the first production—a workshop of their Greek-murder-musical-comedy—last winter:

• Freehold botched the theater rental1, making them cut the run short.

• The production designer stopped returning phone calls and vanished. He later explained he was having a midlife crisis. (He eventually returned.)

• The live musician/composer quit because he, according to co-author and actor Alissa Mortenson (she’s the blonde above), “didn’t like some people in the show.”

• “Then I got dumped by a boy I was in love with,” Mortenson said. “And the same thing happened to two other people in the show.”

• For the second Seattle production this month, Velocity botched the theater rental2 forcing Medea to relocate to CHAC. (That was after all the press releases with the original dates and times had already been sent.)

• The noise at CHAC: “Who knew that so many of CHAC’s events involve loud, live-dj thumpy-thumpy?,” Mortenson asked. (Hate to break it to you, Alissa, but that’s not exactly a secret. Still.) “Ever asked a master mixer to turn the music down just a tiny bit because there’s a quiet little play happening in the non-soundproofed room next door? Then you have seen the scornful face of death.”

Other problems with CHAC’s upstairs theater (which is run by a dance company called Walrus): its dimensions were smaller than reported, so the set wouldn’t fit; it lacked some of the equipment (curtains, etc.) that Mortenson thought it’d have.

Another designer, another midlife crisis.

• The critics haven’t been kind. (Joe Adcock, at his most Adcockian: “The play often is labored and never subtle. But it is amusing at times.” Now there’s a man who loves his copulas.)

• The actor playing Creon (Mortenson describes him as “older, somewhat infirm, and eccentric”) said that performing during the recent heat wave nearly killed him. “I don’t want to die in that theater,” Mortenson said he said. So he quit. The company found found a last-minute replacement, who …

• … promptly broke up with his girlfriend.

“They’re all more or less disasters averted,” Mortenson said gamely. “The show is still going on. But the next thing I want to do is one-woman show.”

1 Or maybe Nebulene botched. Anyway, botching happened.

2 Because Velocity lost its theaters when Ted Scroth bought Oddfellows and, in the confusion, neglected to tell Mortenson.

RSS icon Comments


What exactly is the deal with DJs who think it is their God-given right to pound the eardrums of everyone and anyone around them with 100 decibel beats?

Posted by Greg | May 20, 2008 10:54 AM

Having the play you're watching at CHAC be underscored by a constant throbbing beat coming through the walls/floor/ceiling isn't bad luck, it's standard operating procedure.

Posted by flamingbanjo | May 20, 2008 11:10 AM

ohmigoodness! A theatre production wracked with confusion, chaos and artistic egos and peculiarities! Who would have thought?

Posted by michael strangeways | May 20, 2008 11:25 AM

Um, but don't these kind of people live for drama - and tend to seek it out in their own lives?

At least that's what the Stranger Student Guide said ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 20, 2008 11:41 AM

Sounds like there's plenty of blame to go around, but Jeebuz, after everything she'd already been through, you'd think Mortenson would have had enough foresight to do a walk-through of Walrus (nee: Annex) BEFORE committing to the space. That's just plain sloppy.


Isn't that precisely WHY people listen to this type of music; for the loud-than-loud thumpy-thumpy?

Posted by COMTE | May 20, 2008 12:13 PM

Hey, Brendan!

Thanks for the writeup, but there's something inspiring going on here that I think you've missed. Of course things are often chaotic putting theatre together, and I don't think this show is alone in that regard. (As Michael Strangeways says above, "Who would have thought?") What's awesome about it is the will, good humor, and energy that goes into getting a show up and on its feet, despite setbacks.

Every one of these events that cropped up en route to opening was something that was tackled with grace and enthusiasm by the humbling group of people who are working with us on this show, and none of these was such a disaster that we didn't have fun putting something together that we hoped would reach folks. The fact is that the Seattle fringe theatre community is one that looks at un-promising circumstances and unlikely odds, shrugs cheerfully, and says "looks like it's worth a try!" And that makes me stoked to get to live here and work with these people.

This ain't a tale of woe, it's a story about a rather inexperienced theatre company who made a few mistakes, had a few bad breaks, had some compensatory really amazing luck that didn't fit the confines of this article, and kept moving forward. It's really cool that that's possible here.

Posted by Alissa Mortenson | May 20, 2008 12:51 PM

In fairness to them, Comte, I think Nebuwhatsit was doing a production of Medea Knows Best in San Francisco at the time, so they didn't have the luxury of a walk-through.

And when they got there, the set (a giant TV screen) didn't fit...

Posted by Brendan Kiley | May 20, 2008 12:53 PM

I saw Mike Daisey's Monopoly at CHAC several weeks ago, and someone in an adjacent space started practicing the drums shortly before the monologue ended. Mike was a true professional (though his face was a quiet mask of white-hot rage after the audience and then assorted well-wishers left). I have to say that Mike is compelling enough that only part of my brain noted the drum kit, because I was so focused on the conclusion of the show. A number of audience members told him later they hadn't "heard" any drums.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman | May 20, 2008 12:57 PM

When this show closes, maybe the can stage The Unhappiest Fella

As a contest!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | May 20, 2008 4:28 PM

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